Midwest Madness...

For photographer Joey Wallis and I this project was a labor of love that we schemed up last season while we were hanging out together in Moena, Italy. Joey was born and raised "Midwest" in Dubuque, Iowa and of course I hail from Wilmot, Wisconsin. We went on and on one night in Italy about how we would love to do a Midwest project and give some love to the region that we both love so much. We had a grand plan that we were able to halfway execute this year with our migration to the Midwest Telefest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Downwind Sports has been putting on the festival for 20 years up on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the U.P. at the Porkies resort and Mt. Bohemia. Lonie Glieberman is the owner of the unique resorts nestled deep in the woods of this small peninsula on a peninsula in the middle of the Great Lake Superior. Mt. Bohemia is out on the tip of this little finger and experiences weather anomalies out in the middle of the lake that dumps 300+ inches of cold northern powder on all 900 vertical feet of the rocky little resort each winter. I have skied all over the world and I was so impressed by the gnarliness of this Midwest gem that I have plans in the works to return for more and more projects in the future. According to Glieberman, the area is a prehistoric volcano, which gives it the rocky steep features that litter the entire resort on all aspects. I felt like someone had taken techy Crested Butte and squeezed it into this midwest location. These mountains blew me away and the festival blew my mind.

Joey and I flew into Houghton Memorial Airport and headed north towards the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula with little idea about exactly where we were going. We just figured that we could follow signs and find our way. We were way off, cause we did not realize how remote this part of the country really is. The bartender and some locals pointed us in the right direction at the White House Inn in Mohawk, Michigan where Joey and I took down some killer fried chicken dinners. Then headed up the road going north.

^After driving right by a few turns and wandering around the woods for a while Joey and I knew we were close and stopped in at the only neon sign we could find. As we walked up to this dank little deep woods bar we saw two Subaru Outbacks parked in the lot adorned with telemark and resort stickers so we figured we were in luck. We had no idea what we were about to walk into. Inside the bar were these two telemark ski instructors from Wisconsin who gave us one hell of a welcoming. Pictured left to right is Mike from Sheboygan, myself, Joey, and Linda. Mike and Linda drove up together and were doing some instructing for the festival. Joey and I sat down with these two and the young sweetheart bartender starting pouring us drinks until the wee hours of the night. Joey and I ended up crashing with Mike and Linda that night in their cabin cause we got too drunk and arrived at Mt. Bohemia much to late for our check-in at the hostel.

^Joey and I were still able to get up the next morning and fight off our hangovers to meet up with our patrol host that Lonie had setup for us, Todd Morgan. Todd comes up for the weekend from Traverse City, Michigan to work patrol for Mt. Bohemia. Todd showed us all the little nooks and cranies of the resort, which included this little turn with a grand view of the lakes in the background.

^My pops came up from Wilmot to hang out for the festival. He brought our cousin Tom Robinson and young Tommy Kolkau(sp?) up with him. Big props to Tommy for running a video camera for me on Friday. Tommy has done some tripod work for me in the past and he came through for me once again. My dad and I don’t get to hang out much in the winter cause I am always traveling and getting after my ski ambitions. It was a real treat to have him come up to share this one with me.

^Here is some of the local talent at the festival. Some of the Downwind guys and other new friends are posing for a photo with Joey and I. These folks were a lot of fun and really great to us the whole weekend.

^Some of the young guns from the Wilmot crew are pictured here making their way through the woods at the Porkies for some of the sheltered powder we were finding in the trees. The huge snow caked trees made for a really cool atmosphere in the deep woods of this northern hideaway. The crew helped out Joey a bunch with some festival photo work while I was covering the festival events on Saturday.

^The crowd is jumpin, literally, for some toss swag at the movie night. The boys from Downwind Sports showed Josh Madsen’s movie “The Freeheelife” and the festival goers ate up all the telemark action in the flick.

^Pictured left to right is my cousin Tom, myself, and my Pops, and we are enjoying some PBR’s and some laughs from one of my “Old Man’s” classic stories. This festival is quite the party and we were not about to let the good times pass us by. I was in great spirits amongst my homies from Wilmot who made the journey north including my cousin Randy who hasn’t skied in years. It was like riding a bike for Randy, which was as we expected, after all, he is a Robinson.

^Billy goating through the rocks, I am just trying to keep it tight in the super techy little line. I found myself getting worked by the quickness of the terrain and it took me a while to get my quick feet back underneath me. Local telemark legend, Steve Rowe, was touring us around for a while to a whole bunch of cool features on a variety of aspects in and out of the resort. Steve's depth of local knowledge and the surrounding terrain was a real asset to Joey and I. We would have been lost in those woods and trying to pick our way through rocks without his help. You have got to be on your toes to keep from getting wrapped around a tree or crunching a rock when your at Mt. Bohemia.

^Here is a lively ensemble of characters taking in the festival and a whole bunch of laughs and good times throughout the weekend. It is the people like these that made this festival such a great experience for us.

^I am getting a little bit of clean Midwestern air in the trees of Mt. Bohemia. This terrain was really techy and tight and hucking in these woods is no joke when you have got to shut it down and get back on top of your shit before you smack into a big old tree.

^Getting into some Appalachian moonshine and getting down on the dance floor with some Chasin Steel bluegrass and next thing you know the whole room starts to take on a different look through the booze goggle haze. This cool distorted photo Joey took kind of gives me Déjà vu.

^If there is a picture that wraps up my mindset after this wild weekend of techy terrain, festival fun, and moonshine induced debauchery, then this is the one. Joey and I crammed a lot of love, laughs, good times, and a little work into three crazy days in the Keweenaw. I have nothing but admiration and thanks for all the people that made this festival and my experience there one that I will talk about for the rest of my life. Thanks all.